We all can say for a fact that dogs are out best buds, and for a good reason. According to a recent research project, dogs can read out facial expressions, much like their human masters. So, the next time your dog bows down his head, remember that this is not a sign of guilt, but his attempt to appease you.
Dogs do seem to have a knack when it comes to communicating with their human masters. From their puppy eyes, all the way to their wiggly tails, dogs do have their ways of getting under our skin. And who can say no to those big eyes, even though he broke the new TV set while he was trying to catch an imaginary cat?
Now, empathy in dogs has been demonstrated by other studies, but this is the first one that actually proves that dogs use complex facial cues in order to assess his master’s emotional state. The study has been conducted by a group of Finnish researchers from the University of Helsinki.
The group of researchers wanted to understand how a dog is capable of figuring out our state of mind by looking at our faces. In order to prove this fact, the scientists enlisted a group of 31 dogs, belonging to 13 different breeds of dogs.
These canines were specially trained to sit in front of a big TV and watch pictures. So, what happened next? The researchers put the dogs to sit in front of the TV. Using the set, they would display pictures of people with several facial expressions. Some of them had a neutral expression, other were outright angry while the other had a friendly facial expression.
All this time, the scientists were careful to monitor the dog’s eye movement. According to their observations, when the dog sees an angry face, he will immediately avoid eye contact. The researchers theorized that the dog chooses to break eye contact, but not as a sign of submission, but because he wants to appease his master.
Sanni Somppi, one of the study’s co-authors declared that dogs can read our facial expression. The researchers also added that this could be a trait inherited from the dog’s ancestors. He also added that, over the years, dogs have development certain mechanisms which make them bond better with humans.
Moreover, when assessing the owner’s state, a dog won’t focus on one point, but will focus its view on several points located on our faces. Furthermore, the scientists also observed that when faced with another dog, a canine will look at the other dog’s mouth in order to assess its stance.